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Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption Paperback – Bargain Price, October 10, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 38 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (October 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061131237
  • ASIN: B001RTS956
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

[Signature]Reviewed by Sara NelsonPity the poor shelver who has to decide where to put this book. Does it go with the wall full of Kennedyana, the tell-alls and critiques of the family America loves to hate and hates to love? Or does it go into the ever increasing "recovery" section of the memoir department, packed as it is with tales of debauchery, and finally, painful and hard-won sobriety?Because this offering, by the 50-year-old nephew of President Kennedy, son of the late actor Peter Lawford, and cousin of the late American prince, JFK Jr. (how's that for a legacy to live with?), is both of those things, it is hard to categorize, and harder to resist. There's plenty of dish here, even if it is dish of the gentle, almost old-fashioned variety. (Lawford tells of being taught to do the twist by Marilyn Monroe; of spying, as a 10-year-old, on a former First Lady taking a bath, of partying with Kennedys and Lennons and Jaggers.) But it is also a palpably painful and moving rendition of bad behavior with women and money and drugs, and 20 years of staying sober.If you've read any recovery lit, you already know the drill: the stories of lying and charming and messing up school, jobs and relationships. There's plenty of that, but in Lawford's case, the backdrop against which he misbehaved is in itself dramatic. He writes achingly of his relationship with his cousin David, RFK's son, with whom he regularly did drugs and who died in a Palm Beach hotel room in 1984. (Lawford broke with Kennedy family tradition and named his son for David.) When he arrives high at a family party, the photographic proof turns up in the newspaper—because it was a fundraiser for his uncle Teddy. If this were somebody with a less famous-for-carousing name, you might think he was just another self-dramatizing alcoholic; as it is, Lawford is clearly just recounting his life.Even so, he could come off as obnoxious—were it not for his frankness, humor and self-awareness. Lawford goes out of his way to own, as they say in recovery, his behavior, and while he acknowledges a family tendency, he blames no one but himself. He can also write knowingly and self-deprecatingly about his competitive relationships with his many cousins, his vanity as an actor (he has appeared in films including The Russia House and Mr. North, as well as many television programs but is, by his own admission, no Tom Cruise), and his tendency to refer to his many female conquests as "the most beautiful girl in the world."So where does this book belong? Does it matter? You don't have to care about Kennedys to find this a moving tale of self-discovery and redemption. Whatever else he may have been—son, nephew, cousin, etc.—Christopher Lawford shows himself here to be a writer of talent and grace. 32 pages of photos. (Oct.)Sara Nelson is the Editor-in-Chief of PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Kennedys don't cry. And they don't write tell-all books. So this memoir breaks new ground, although much of the material about the Kennedy second generation has been covered elsewhere, especially in Peter Collier and David Horowitz's The Kennedys: An American Drama (1985). In any case, Lawford, son of actor Peter Lawford and Patricia Lawford, Rose and Joe's sixth child, uses the family primarily as a backdrop to his own drug-filled, angst-driven life. Like his father, Lawford is an actor, and while only a supporting player in so many phases of his life and career, he makes sure that here he has the starring role. Born to wealth and privilege, he freely admits he ran through the money and willingly accepted whatever the family name got him--which was plenty. After his parents' divorce (which removed his father from his life) and the death of his uncle Robert, Lawford, along with several of his male cousins, spiraled downward, with drugs, including heroin, ruling his life. Lawford says he's written this book on his own, and he's done a fine job of it, freely allowing himself to come across as the narcissist he was and in some ways still is, even as he earnestly offers inspirational nuggets he's found on his spiritual path. You know this memoir works when the pages absent Frank, Marilyn, Sammy, and Jackie are every bit as interesting as those where they're featured. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book was well written and very interesting.
Loves to Read
Those were the thoughts running through my head as I read Symptoms of Withdrawal by Christopher Kennedy Lawford.
Barbara S. Reeves
The book is actually a good example of how to examine one's own life.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on November 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Christopher Lawford has written a soul-bearing autobiography that spells out his drug addiction, his recovery and his extended family's influence over the years. While it is nicely written and funny on one level, it is revealing on another one...and not on the fortunate side.

Mr. Lawford has lived fifty years of an often confusing life. Born into the Kennedy family he has always seen himself as a "second string" of those cousins who gets mixed up in the whole clan and lacks an identity. Partly because of this but also owing to his genetic makeup, he turned to drugs at an early age and treaded water for about twenty years before taking the courageous step to take charge of his life. To that end, I give him enormous credit.

There are many problems, however, with this book. It needs serious editing, for instance. Drugs and womanizing are the center of his life, but three hundred pages of this is enough to swamp a manatee. Unhappily for the reader, the final pages are not much more satisfying. Lawford becomes overly preachy about his recovery and then proceeds to recount the dissolution of his marriage. If Christopher Lawford has grown, I don't see much evidence of it. As proud as he is to trumpet to others that he is a Kennedy, it seems he always turns to them at every corner for his needs. They are his enablers and I don't get a picture that this will stop anytime soon, regardless of the author's protestations of becoming an individual apart from his family.

As he often mentions in "Symptoms of Withdrawal", Christopher Lawford has had every advantage in life without much forward success. I wish him well in his continued recovery but also had hoped that this book had been written in a better way.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Demi Cronin on October 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most intense books I've read in a while. It's Lawford's account of his life as a Kennedy, Lawford and an addict. The fly leaf sets up the story with the following: What happens when you are born with the American dream fulfilled? I was given wealth, power, and fame when I drew my first breath. Now what?

The first half of the book "packs so much material on his family that a Kennedy-parasite biographer could find a career's worth of stories," writes Janet Maslin of NY Times. Then half way through we descend into the bleak world of addiction. I'm fortunate that drugs, alcohol, and addiction have not played a meaningful role in my life, but I had a few friends who became addicted 20 years ago and I spent years trying to help them before giving up. I lost both of them. As a result, the book had an unbelievable impact on me. I worked my way through the first half slowly -- it was hard to move through it very quickly.

The second half is a story of renewal, as he writes: "For those of you who bought this book for stories about my descent into darkness, the Rat Pack, and the Kennedys - you can stop reading now. For the rest, I'm here to tell you the most interesting part of my story is not what happened in the dark alley but what has happened in the sunlit room." Slowly - Lawford starts to make progress. As the period of time that he's sober and clean lengthens, he starts to address his issues, and some of his real demons. He is incredibly honest, extremely insightful, and admirable in how he takes responsibility for his actions.

This book is a journey, and what a journey it is and as Lawford says has to be read from beginning to end. There's no index...which I thought was brilliant. Five Stars *****
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on April 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A quick scan of the reviews shows this book has been controversial with mixed results. Did I enjoy and/or learn something from this book? Absolutely! Is Mr. Lawford a flawed writer? Without a question. Would I recommend this book? Yes, if you have an interest in the Kennedy legacy particularly, but also if you have an interest in recent history from the 1960s forward, discussions of interpersonal relationships or drug use, or if you have an interest in the phenomenon of celebrity culture.

By now you've probably figured out this is a biography of Christopher Lawford, son of Peter & Pat Lawford, nephew to the Kennedys. Chris gives a good summary of what it is like growing up in a family of celebrities including frequent visits from Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. Without a question his famous father had a unique charisma. From this idealic life living on the beach in Santa Monica he is quickly shuffled to New York as his parents divorce and his father's influence going forward can only be called flawed at best. Surprisingly, the role of his mother in the book is somewhat silent. Yes, he presents glowing love letters written to his mother but that is balanced by later discussions of her drinking and living abroad with his sisters. Frankly, she comes across as quite distant and one must wonder where she was during the massive drug abuse described.

As to the drug abuse, Chris projects that his best former friend, cousin, and deceased David Kennedy, as well as Robert Kennedy, were active drug users with no real repercussions from the family. Now I know it's much more complex than that but there is not one mention in the entire book of any type discipline! Come on Mom, can't you do anything?????
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